Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And the 2011 world champions are…

I’m a big fan of those “end of the year best-of lists”. After an entire year of frantic listening to new records it’s always good to look back at all of them and to select the ones that truely made a difference (and to basically forget the rest…). And I have to say I enjoy selecting my own favorite records just as much as I enjoy going through other people’s lists.

Some of the records listed below may not necessarily be among the best I heard this year. It’s just a selection of albums I think you should consider checking out, because to me, this year, they mattered more than the others.

There is no ranking here; the 20 records cited below are all winners and they’re simply listed in an alphabetical order. That’s easy to understand, since the selection extremely eclectic, and it would obviously be absurd to compare a brutal death metal record with a stoner album!

Band: Autopsy
Album: Macabre Eternal
Style: Death Metal Institution
Autopsy’s return was a bit of a surprise last year, and many wondered how the new record featuring the legacy line-up (Reifert, Cutler, Allen, Coralles) was going to sound. And the debate never even started, as Macabre Eternal showed to be just as awesome as in your wildest dreams. Macabre Eternal is a lesson in Death Metal, and Autopsy reaches indescribable morbidity on the epic (and horrific) final track called “Sadistic Gratification”. Macabre and Eternal Indeed. 

Band: Battlecross
Album: Pursuit Of Honor
Style: Pure Metal
Every year on earth comes with its load of new “Metalcore” bands. But this new band from Michigan is like no other. Their secret? They simply display more energy than anything you’ve ever seen. This is 100% pure Metal power, with killer riffs and amazing melodies. These guys can rock and they sure can write some great songs. Pursuit Of Honor is one the albums I listened most to this year. Check out my detailed review right here.

Band: Disma
Album: Towards The Megalith
Style: Death (Doom) Metal
Towards The Megalith was one of 2011’s most anticipated albums. The first record from this new death metal band HAD to destroy all competition. And when it came out last summer, it just did as expected. All the excitement born after the release of some demo tracks and a fantastic split CD with Winterwolf was totally justified, and this album just crushed everything on its way. Some songs like “Of A Past Forlorn” are one of this year’s best songs. You like your Death Metal slow and dominating? Then you need to possess this album (reviewed here)!

Band: Dornenreich
Album: Flammentriebe
Style: Classy Black/Prog Metal
I have to admit I didn’t really know Dornenreich before listening to their new album earlier this year. And this record really struck by with its beauty and it’s intelligence. This is some finely composed Black/Prog’ Metal, believe me. The music is extremely balanced, with a perfect “beauty/beast” aspect creating such a visual music. A tremendous introduction to the very demanding and refined Prophecy Production catalogue…

Band: Farsot
Album: Insects
Style: German Black metal
Farsot has probably become, alongside Secrets Of The Moon, the best illustration of what “German Black Metal” is about. It’s dark, cold, methodic and intelligent. Each song is perfectly balanced, dynamic and with a clear focus on elaborating of a specific atmosphere. “Insects” deals with the earth, the way we treat it and the way we’re probably going to end. Guess what; just listen to it and you’ll have that persistent taste of soil in your mouth. Impressive.

Band: Forgotten Tomb
Album: Under Saturn Retrograde
Style: Gothic Black Metal
Just to get things straight: I usually hate gothic black metal. But somehow, this band talks to me. The poppy and gothic black metal these guys have to offer is unbelievably catchy and disgusting at the same time. They used to illustrate their music with “arty” shots of decadence, and no matter how silly it might seem, it really does represent their music perfectly. So disgusting yet so sweet!

Band: Lifelover
Album: Sjukdom
Style: Gothic/Nihilistic Black Metal
Just like Forgotten Tomb, Lifelover perfectly masters the art of disgusting beauty. In fact, they perfectly MASTERED that art, since frontman “B” was found dead a few months ago… A terrible loss to the scene. Their final album was released with some accessories: barbwire, syringe…

Band: Mastodon
Album: The Hunter
Style: Mastodon Rock
You know what’s so strange with Mastodon? Sometimes you can’t stand listening to their music, and you still have to recognize the fact that this is genius stuff. These guys are unbelievably talented and ahead of their time. I also saw them live on Sonisphere this summer, and they rocked the place really strong. Badass stuff.  

Band: Miasmal
Album: Miasmal
Style: Swedish Death Metal
I told you about Miasmal earlier this year in a blog crowning them as “2011’s death metal champions” with Disma. And I still believe these young guys from Sweden produced the BEST Swedish old-school Death Metal album this year. The groove and the urge on their self-titled debut are utterly outstanding and you’ll keep pressing “play” over and over again. It’s like an addiction. I even got caught dancing on that shit!

Band: Myrath
Album: Tales Of The Sands
Style: Progressive Metal
I once lost faith in prog’ metal. All of the Dream Theater and Symphony X clones nearly got me to quit the genre completely (I blogged about that this summer). Then a new generation rose, and Myrath, a band from Tunisia, blasted through the “Arab Spring” with their new album this year. Energy, technique, emotion and oriental melodies; you’ll get all of that wrapped up in a perfect mix of Dream Theater and Symphony X. I also got to see the band on their first real tour this year, and trust me; they have a brilliant future ahead of them.

Band: Obscura
Album: Omnivium
Style: Techno-Death
Don’t you think that the bands that really matter are those who make you enjoy a musical style you didn’t appreciate before? And that’s precisely what Obscura did to me this year. One quick listen to Omnivium and I was under the spell. I ran out to the store and bought all their records. These guys are insane, and their music is just “art”.

Band: Premonition 13
Album: Premonition 13
Style: Wino’s Rock
Okay, I confess. Anytime Wino will put out a new CD, you’ll find it in my best-of list. I can’t help it. This guy is a rock genius, and no matter what band he plays in, his music rocks, grooves and will give you gooseflesh. And guess what, the Obsessed are coming back next year!

Band: Revocation
Album: Chaos Of Forms
Style: Techno-Thrash
Revocation may sometimes be described as “prog-thrash” metal. Why not. I simply adore this band because they are technical enough to express their madness through fast, crazy and boiling Thrash Metal. And the key-factor here is that these guys never forget that they’re playing Metal as they keep focused on what matters most: HEADBANGING!

Band: Rival Sons
Album: Pressure And Time
Style: Hard Rock
A lot of new “retro” or 70’s hard rock bands have appeared lately, but this new Earache rooster has something special. They just sound so genuine and pure! This is an awesome record here with plenty of instant “hits”. Check out their video for the song “All Over The Road” (right here) and you’ll get my point instantly.

Band: Sinister Realm
Album: The Crystal Eye
Style: Heavy Metal
Now you’ve all noticed there’s a heavy metal revival going on, as many new and young bands are coming from out of everywhere, trying to recapture the ancient’s magic for heavy metal. Most of them fail, some succeed, and some come up with Classics. And John Gaffney’s Sinister Realm just crushed all sorts of competition with their second record; The Crystal Eye. This album is built like a Classic and does sound like one. Everything is perfect on this album, and I just keep on listening to it over and over again! Make sure to read my review as well as the interview conducted with John.

Band: The Devil’s Blood
Album: The Thousandfold Epicentre
Style: Occult Rock
After the inexplicable hype around their first LP, The Devil’s Blood’s second album was highly anticipated. And instead of playing it safe and recording something similar to their successful first album, our satanic friends took things MUCH further with a fantastic second album full of top-notch musicality. You’ll also find some insane and weird psychedelic passages on this one. Top quality stuff.

Band: The Haunted
Album: Unseen
Style: Metal
If only one was to remain, it would be Unseen by The Haunted. This is without a doubt my favorite album this year, the one I listened to the most ad the one that impresses me the most. I thought I knew the band before, and I completely rediscovered it with this album. Unseen is heavy, melodic, sexy, groovy, dark, bright. Everything you love about music is in here, look no further, this is the ULTIMATE record.

Band: The Wounded Kings
Album: In the Chapel Of The Black Hand
Style: Dooooom
The Wounded Kings is a band that I love, because they make you feel exactly what they want you to feel. On their previous record, “The Shadow Over Atlantis”, you really felt you were under the sea. This new album is not as gloomy; this time around it’s occult, groovy and ritualistic. Great great doom from the UK!

Band: Vektor
Album: Outer Isolation
Style: Thrash from outer space
Wow, where can I start? These insane dudes rock. Crazy Thrash Metal that is technical, furious, fast, weird, full of sci-fi madness. If you like your metal original and hectic, then make sure to check these guys out!

Band: Wolves In the Throne Room
Album: Celestial Lineage
Style: Black Metal
Wolves In The throne Room is one of the most interesting New Black Metal Bands from the US. The band somehow managed to use the Scandinavian heritage of BM and to adapt it to their US roots. It’s about nature and religion, and it’s definitely something you really have to investigate, especially that the album comes out in some really fancy CD and LP editions.

The Outsiders:

If you’re a real psycho and if you’ve already dissected all the albums listed above, here’s a suggestion of serious outsiders that could have made it into my list:

Torchbearer – Death Meditations
Exaclty the kind of Metal I Love. Epic stuff from Sweden that will drag you into the battlefield. This supergroup isn’t the most productive one, and their new record has a more symphonic edge that I really appreciated.

Gregor Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) wrote old-school death metal songs as a catharsis after his father passed. A Fragile King by Vallenfyre is the demonstration that the man still masters the art. A Perfect exercise in style.

Fantastic Thrash Metal from Sweden: nervous, fast, aggressive and nasty. You like Thrash, you like Entrench! Really love the artwork as well.

Rotten Sound – Cursed
No presentations needed for the Finnish institution of Grind metal. Only this time around, their new record is so groovy and so heavy that it reminded me of the very early Finnish doom/death metal bands. Awesome!

Yob - Atma
The thing is, I still haven't had the chance to listen to that one yet! However, I'm a big fan of Yob, and I just know that this record is at least as good as the previous ones. Plus the artwork alone is worth investing in that awesome 2LP edition. 

The Jokes:

Lou Reed & Metallica’s Lulu
Lame story and horrible music. Claiming that this is “misunderstood art” ain’t enough anymore. The music SUCKS, end of story.

Korn – the Path Of Totality
J.Davis apparently stated that “Dubstep is the future of Metal”. Yeah right! One thing for sure though: Korn is no longer the future of Metal…

Here we are! Another year of great Metal has passed, and it was once again very tough to select the "best" albums. There are so many records coming out every month (way too many in my opinion) and it's become impossible to listen to all of them. I hope that selection will give you hints about some cool bands that deserve your attention! 
Happy Holidays everyone!

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